Thanks to Terry Pegula, 80 former Sabres were in the building as the Sabres were looking to clinch a playoff spot for the second consecutive season. In order to do so, Buffalo would have to find a way to get past the Flyers, who are second in the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres were caught standing still as Philadelphia opened the scoring with Scott Hartnell’s 22nd goal of the season. A penalty-free first period and 22 saves combined by the goaltenders kept the score at 1-0 to end the period.
Whatever Lindy Ruff said in the locker room fired the Sabres up. Nathan Gerbe scored just 25 seconds into the second period to tie the game at one. A few minutes later, Thomas Vanek set up Jason Pominville for the go-ahead goal.
With a chance to increase the lead on the power play, the plan backfired – for the 13th time this season. Kris Versteeg scored a short-handed goal to tie the game at two. Less than a minute later, just after the Flyers returned to full strength, Daniel Briere beat Jhonas Enroth to give Philadelphia a 3-2 lead.
After two periods of play, Ryan Miller replaced Enroth in net. Enroth finished the night with 16 of 19 saves.
Gerbe did a spin-o-rama and roofed a backhand shot past Sergei Bobrovsky to tie the game at three.
During the final minute of regulation, the Sabres let time run out by holding the puck in their own end. Philadelphia was looking for the extra point, so they didn’t mind heading to overtime.
The sellout crowd at HSBC Arena was fired up as the Sabres officially clinched a playoff spot by heading to overtime. Vanek would cap the night off with his 32nd of the season as he beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway.
Miller came in after two periods of play and was perfect, stopping all eight shots he faced.
With the win, the Sabres can finish no lower than seventh in the Conference. Vanek finished the night with three points.
In a vote conducted by Sabres players, Miller was selected the team’s MVP, Tyler Ennis wasrookie of the year and Cody McCormick was the unsung hero.